Florida Gators at Xavier Musketeers Gameday

Location: Cintas Center – Cincinnati, OH [Capacity: 10,250]
Time: 4:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: ESPN2
Online Audio: Yahoo!
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

FLORIDA GATORS XAVIER MUSKETEERS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Chris Mack
Record: 9-3 Record: 8-3
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Atlantic 10
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Xavier -1.5; O/U 126.5

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Xavier leads the all-time series against Florida 2-0. The Musketeers defeated the Gators 76-64 in Gainseville, FL, last season.
» Florida is only 14-17 all-time against A-10 opponents under Donovan and have lost three straight including two last season.
» The Gators defense has signifigantly improved over the last seven games, holding opponents to just 53.7 points per contest and allowing only one team to score 60. Simultaneously, Florida has failed to score 70 points once in the same seven games.
» Florida has out-rebounded 11 of 12 opponents this season – including in its three defeats – and is doing so by a +7.8 rebound per game advantage.
» The Gators are 80-22 under Donovan in the month of December.
» Florida bests Xavier in three of four major statistical categories nationally including rebounds per game 37.6-35.7 (97th-177th), assists per game 13.8-13.3 (138th-168th) and field goal percentage .467-.440 (57th-168th). However, the Musketeers score more points per game than the Gators 70.8-69.1 (160th-186th).

KEEP AN EYE ON…

» Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton and junior point guard Erving Walker…a backcourt duo that has combined to average 25.9 points per game and has accounted for 46 of their team’s 63 three-pointers this season.
» Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin…who is shooting a team-high 58.6 percent this season with most of his buckets coming inside the paint.
» Senior F Chandler Parsons…who is averaging 9.7 points and 5.9 rebounds per game and is an integral part to the Gators’ success.
» Xavier G Tu Holloway…who leads his team with 20.8 points, 5.5 assists and 1.6 steals per game in an average of 39 minutes.
» Musketeers F Jamel McLean..who is his team’s biggest presence inside and averages 9.5 rebounds and almost a block per game while contributing 10.5 points.

12/30: Addazio, Austin speak before Outback Bowl

The Florida Gators are currently in Tampa, FL, preparing for the 2011 Outback Bowl against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Raymond James Stadium on Jan. 1 at 1 p.m. Below are some notes from the coordinators, who spoke with the media on Thursday.

REFLECTING ON HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH MEYER

Asked how it felt to be leaving Florida and head coach Urban Meyer, offensive coordinator Steve Addazio looked back fondly on his time in Gainesville, FL, working for a man he appreciates both as a person and as a football coach. “We go so far back. It’s hard for me to capsulize that in a few words. I would never do it justice. I just love him,” he said. “We’ve been through a lot together. He’s a great football coach, a great human being. He’s done a lot for my family. He’s done a lot for this football program. He’s brought a lot of unbelievable moments to the Gator Nation, and he makes coming to work every day great. He brought me here. Life’s all about relationships and being around the people you want to be around. I couldn’t have been around anybody better.”

FOCUS SOLELY ON THE BOWL GAME

Hired to be the new head coach of the Temple Owls, Addazio made it clear that nothing has impacted his preparation for the Outback Bowl. “My focus and attention right now is on this football team and on the preparation for this game. And really enjoying being around my guys,” he said. “I just want to talk about the Gators right now. The Gators and my guys. I got a short bit of time left, and that’s my focus.”

Addazio also admitted that leaving is going to be tough on him from an emotional standpoint. “You get close to these kids and it’s hard to say goodbye to them. They’re like family to you,” he said. “I really felt fortunate to have the chance to be here, to be honest with you.”

GOAL IS TO STAY…IF HE IS WANTED

Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, who is rumored to be on the chopping block because new head coach Will Muschamp specializes in defense and is assumed to want to hire a like-minded coordinator, said he would be happy to stay at Florida if he is wanted. “What do you think I would say? I came here I the first place. It was the university that was the big selling point for me,” Austin said when asked if he would want to return in 2011. “If Coach Muscahmp wants to sit down and talk about that, obviously we’ll talk about that. […] I don’t know anything. Right now I’m employed by the University of Florida. Until somebody tells me otherwise, that’s what I’m planning on doing.”

Nevertheless, he does realize that the likelihood is that he will be moving on and understands that is a part of the job. “This is the first time I’ve ever been some place just for a year,” he said. “That’s different, but it’s part of our profession. When you sign up to be a coach, you know that there’s the good and the bad of it and sometimes that’s the bad of it — you have to pick up and move your family.”

He also made it clear that he has not agreed to take the same position with the Texas Longhorns, contrary to Internet reports stating otherwise. “I know some guys on the staff,” he said. “When [the job] came open, there was maybe, ‘Hey, would you be interested if you’re not going to be there?’ If I’m not here, and I find out I’m not here, then that’s a possibility. But until then, there’s really nothing to talk about.”

HEALTH ISSUES JUST A SCARE

Austin also confirmed Thursday that the mild gastritis he suffered from on Monday and Tuesday was just a scare and that he and the team did not lack in preparation with his absence. “It felt bad enough for me to go [to the hospital],” he said. I went, got it checked out, getting a little older so I better make sure I’m taking care of myself,” he said.

Top 10 for 2010: Off the Field Stories of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators accomplished on the field in 2010 (check out our post tomorrow), the Gator Nation was making plenty of news off of it as well. From former players signing huge contracts to current team members being a part of some of the biggest news stories in sports this year, Florida was spread all over the sports landscape in 2010. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 10 Off the Field Stories of the Year.

10 » FIVE BECOME A PART OF THE GATOR NATION IN THE SKY
It would be difficult to recount everything that Gator Nation has gone through in 2010 without remembering those close to the University of Florida who left us for a better place in the past year. Young and old, these Gators departed too soon and suddenly in all but one case. Lamar Abel (21), a walk-on defensive lineman, suffered cardiac arrest while volunteering at a roadside cleanup event with his fraternity in Gainesville, FL. Former safety John Curtis (24) committed suicide in Bellvue, WA. Hall of fame safety Jarvis Williams (45) passed away after an acute asthma attack. Former Gators basketball player and friend to the program Augie Greiner (76) died in his home. And long-time donor and Bull Gator George Steinbrenner (80), most famously known as the owner of the New York Yankees, passed away in a Tampa, FL, hospital. OGGOA once again sends our deepest condolences to the families and friends of these men.

9 » ERIN ANDREWS GETS JUSTICE, STARS ON TV, RE-SIGNS WITH ESPN

Former Florida dazzler and ESPN reporter Erin Andrews had a much better go of it in 2010. Though her stalker plead guilty to his charges in court in December 2009, she spent a good portion of 2010 making sure he was brought to justice (27-month prison term) while also spreading word across the country that violence against women from sexual predators cannot and should not be tolerated. Simultaneously, Andrews participated in ABC’s Dancing with the Stars and even dropped a few Gator Chomps along the way. She ended up finishing third in the competition but parlayed her talent on the sidelines into an enhanced gig with the Worldwide Leader in Sports. Andrews signed a new two-year deal with ESPN, which included a role hosting the first hour of College GameDay live on ESPNU, appearances on ABC’s Good Morning America and more of a presence on the family of networks. She also spoke with OGGOA on two occasions, first in a wide-ranging interview that received significant publicity and later to share her thoughts on the resignation of head coach Urban Meyer.

Continue Reading » Top 10 for 2010: Off the Field Stories of the Year

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DE Bobby McCray signed by Philadelphia Eagles

It has been a tough year for former Florida Gators defensive end Bobby McCray. Shining in the playoffs last season for the New Orleans Saints, McCray was unexpectedly released by the defending Super Bowl champions after the team acquired fellow former Florida DE Alex Brown via free agency in the offseason.

McCray was initially cut because he was due a $1.25 million roster bonus even though he wrecked havoc on then-Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner and Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre in 2009 and compiled 59 tackles, 7.5 sacks, three defended passes and a forced fumble in his two years in New Orleans. The team re-signed him in July but cut him just a month later; he has yet to play in 2010.

On Thursday, the Philadelphia Eagles decided to release DE Derrick Burgess and tabbed McCray for their playoff run. He is expected to join the team immediately and could play as soon as Sunday at home against Dallas.

12/29: Players speak at Outback Bowl gathering

The Florida Gators are currently in Tampa, FL, preparing for the 2011 Outback Bowl against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Raymond James Stadium on Jan. 1 at 1 p.m. Below are some notes from the players who spoke with the media on Wednesday.

THIS ONE’s FOR MEYER

Though the players – especially the seniors – obviously want to win their final game in the orange and blue for themselves, they all realize that it is important to send head coach Urban Meyer out on top. That was a common topic of conversation Wednesday.

“We are going to do everything possible to get this win, not only for us, but for him. It’s his last game as well as ours,” senior linebacker Brandon Hicks said. “It’s going to be an emotional time for all of us. I know he’s going to have some tears. Some guys may have some tears. I don’t know, I may have tears. Coach Meyer was a great person, a great coach, and it’s something that you can’t really exchange that for anybody.”

Redshirt senior LB A.J. Jones shared a similar sentiment. “I know it’s going to be pretty emotional because Coach Meyer’s a great man,” he said. “He’s done a lot for us and he’s done a lot for this program. As we want to go out with a bang, the seniors, we want to send him out with a bang, too. Because we know how much we’ve done for each other.”

Senior center Mike Pouncey recalled his thoughts of Florida under Meyer. “Dominant. When we stepped on the field, we never thought we would be beat. We won a lot of games,” he said. “He’s a real emotional coach. He loves to attack other teams, especially on special teams. That really gives him the edge, that he’s a real aggressive coach.”

EARLY THOUGHTS ON MUSCHAMP

They will not have the chance to play under him in Gainesville, FL, but Hicks and Jones also had positive things to say about new Gators head coach Will Muschamp in the little they have seen and heard from him recently.

“He’s going to do great here. He’s a coach that has a lot of drive and a lot of want-to to win,” Hicks said. “He’s excited about the program and what direction he can take it in. They’re going to get the program rolling,” added Jones. “When [athletic director] Jeremy Foley said he was going to be a coach in here, I knew he was going to bring in the best coach possible.”

REDEMPTION FOR THE GATORS

Hicks also sees Saturday’s game as an effort for the team to get a little redemption. “We are going to go out this last game and show what we can do, what we should have done and what we are going to do,” he said. Senior punter Chas Henry agrees. “It’s going to be a very emotional, very hard-fought game,” he added.

TURNING POINT IN THE SEASON

Looking back, Pouncey points to LSU’s come-from-behind win on a fake field goal and fourth down conversion as the turning point where things nose-dived for Florida. “That was the swinging point of our season. If we would have won that game, we would have had all the momentum going into homecoming to beat Mississippi State,” he said. “It came down to them faking a field goal and getting a first down on fourth and four. That’s how the game swung. Once your team has momentum, it’s hard to beat a team with momentum. We lost all our momentum especially when we thought we won the game again.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 12/29: Players speak at Outback Bowl gathering

Broncos QB Tebow mic’d up on NFL Sound FX

Denver Broncos rookie quarterback Tim Tebow engineered a come-from-behind victory including a game-winning touchdown for his team on Sunday against the Houston Texans. The NFL was lucky enough to have a microphone on Tebow throughout the game and traveled with him in the huddle – and in the tunnel – before, during and after the contest. Check out what they recorded via the video clip below or on NFL Network at 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday evening.

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Video courtesy of the National Football League and NFL Network.

12/29: Donovan discusses Florida’s struggles

Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan likes to talk – and we like to listen – which is why we have compiled some of the most important news, notes and quotes from his latest media availability in the following post.

TURNOVERS, FREE THROW SHOOTING ARE BIGGEST WOES

The Gators are struggling in a number of areas, but Donovan pointed to the team’s carelessness with the ball and inability to knock down free throws as its two biggest issues at this point in the season.

“The biggest thing has been our turnovers; about 22 percent of our possessions are resulting in turnovers,” he said. “The free throw shooting, coupled with the turnovers, has made us a team that has scored in the 60s. […] We got to make better decisions, we got to stop turning the ball over, and I also think we have to shoot the ball better from the free throw line. […] We’re leaving a lot of points out there in games because of the turnovers and the free throw shooting.”

Donovan added an interesting nugget. Senior forward Chandler Parsons and redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin, who are supposed to be Florida’s most frequent visitors to the charity stripe from a game-planning standpoint, are also the team’s least effective shooters from that range. Parsons hits 50 percent of his attempts, while Macklin is only connecting on 39 percent of his opportunities.

SHOOTING NOT THE PROBLEM; THREE-POINT SHOOTING IS

Donovan did not have many answers when it came to diagnosing the Gators’ shooting issues, except to say that the biggest problem is the team’s percentage from downtown. “Three point shooting – that’s been a struggle for us – but from the field, we’ve actually shot a pretty decent percentage,” he said. “We’re getting good shots when we don’t turn the ball over, but we need to put the ball in the basket a little bit more.”

Though a Donovan-coached team should not be expected to check down from wide-open treys, perhaps it is time Florida starts concentrating on mid-range jumpers and driving the lane with its backcourt instead of counting on them to drain shots from beyond the arc. His most successful teams have been proficient from the three-point line, but the Gators are shooting 31.5 percent as a team this year with Parsons and sophomore guard Kenny Boynton each hitting less than 27 percent of their attempts. Boynton has shot it 76 times from downtown while UF’s best threat, junior point guard Erving Walker (45 percent) has thrown up 58 shots from long distance.

IS THERE A POSITIVE?

Though Florida’s offense is still working out the kinks, the Gators have significantly improved their defensive aptitude from the previous few seasons. That has kept them in some of their worst shooting games and helped fuel them to victories over Florida State and then-No. 6 Kansas State.

“The one thing that’s been really good for us as a positive – that maybe is not talked about – is that we’ve held teams down ourselves. We’ve played much, much better defense,” Donovan said. “We’ve rebounded the ball much better. We’re more of a physical team and have a better presence at the basket than maybe we’ve had the last couple of years. That’s a blessing.”

But can UF keep it up when their Southeastern Conference slate begins? “To consistently hold teams down game-after-game that low is hard to do,” Donovan added.

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 12/29: Donovan discusses Florida’s struggles

Muschamp could have coaches hired by Tuesday

Speaking with the media on Wednesday as the Florida Gators prepare for the 2011 Outback Bowl against the Penn State Nittany Lions set for Sat., Jan. 1 at 1 p.m., athletic director Jeremy Foley said that he expects new head coach Will Muschamp to have most of his staff in place by Tues., Jan. 4.

“Some pieces are falling into place; still, there’s other pieces that have to fall into place,” Foley said, according to the Palm Beach Post. “He’s making a lot of good progress there and will be in position next week to hit the ground running and go recruit.

“January 4th you have to hit the ground recruiting, so I’m not going to say the whole staff will be in place by then, but we’ve got to have some coaches on the road. We will have some coaches on the road. I think things get really, really hectic the first part of next week.”

As of press time, director of strength and conditioning Mickey Marotti is the only confirmed member of Muschamp’s staff. It is a widely held belief that he will retain a few of the Gators’ current coaches though most hires will be from outside the program.

Because Muschamp has decided to consult head coach Urban Meyer on a number of matters, he will likely receive strong endorsements for some current assistants.

“He’s certainly respectful of the fact that this is Urban’s last deal,” Foley said, according to the University of Florida. “He’s not going to be in the forefront. We probably talk every day. He’s, trust me, rocking and rolling hard putting a staff together. Every time I talk to him, I know he’s chomping at the bit to get to Gainesville and get going recruiting and get this thing rolling.

“I know people are wondering why we haven’t announced this or announced that. It’s because that’s part of the plan. You wait until football seasons are over, individual teams are done playing and then you can start figuring out what are the final pieces of this puzzle.”

DEPARTING COACHES
Offensive coordinator/offensive line Steve Addazio » Named Temple head coach
Assistant head coach/defensive line Dan McCarney » Named North Texas head coach
Defensive coordinator/cornerbacks Teryl Austin » Does not anticipate being retained

REMAINING COACHES
Co-defensive coordinator/safeties Chuck Heater
Running backs coach/recruiting coordinator Stan Drayton
Quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler
Wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni
Tight ends/fullbacks coach Brian White
Linebackers/special teams coach D.J. Durkin

Photo Credit: Erica Brough/Gainesville Sun

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